For me as a performer, it was helpful to refer to the tips from an exhaustive treatise. Without any knowledge or interest in keyboard tablature, I would have completely missed out on finding more about this rather under-performed repertoire and not have a clue how to approach it intelligently and stylistically. All in all, studying and performing this piece was a positive, novel experience for me, and the “detective” work paid off in preparing a confident interpretation.

   Tablature is not only a method of preserving composition but also a source of information for performance practice. As discussed in Chapter 4, it is a relatively easy and logical notation compared to what preceded it (improvisation or part-reading) or concurrently existed as an alternative (keyboard score or partitura, especially with a lack of alignment as in the following piece):



   With that said, I would like to discuss how I interpreted Cabezón’s Quatro favordones del sexto tono from Obras with the help of performance practice advice from Corrêa de Araujo. Even though it has short preface and dedication to the great Antonio, Obras does not provide any written performance tips. So as directed by my main subject teacher, I sought advice from Corrêa’s Facultad organica published some 50 years after Obras. Corrêa does mention Antonio and Hernando de Cabezón as musical influences, so I thought it would be the chronologically closest and relevant source of information to educate myself about performing Cabezón’s music. The 26-leaf preface of Facultad addresses every possible aspect of keyboard playing, from the tablature notation (“ciphers” or figures on lines) to ornamentation (expressed in tablature numbers), technique (fingering and runs in the hands), diminutions, strong and weak pulses, consonances, notation (symbols and enharmonic indications), and tuning, expressed in reference to pitches in numbers.2 For the performance of this fabordón, I paid special attention to Corrêa’s explanation of ornamentation and inequality.

   The fabordóns in Obras appear in 4 parts: a chordal fabordón followed by 3 variations, or glossados. Each variation showcases either the top or bottom voice, or middle voices together in diminution. Doderer and Ripoll define the Fabordones Ilanos y glosados of Cabezón to be “short, strict psalm tone harmonizations in chordal and ornamented versions arranged according to tonality, and “[in] spite of their reduced dimensions and their often obvious pedagogical character, which also finds expression in an occasional two- or three-part setting, a large number of artfully worked-out miniatures can be found among them.”3 Even though they describe them as “ornamented,” when I was studying this piece to perform, I found much of it unornamented, especially the fabordón theme which was just chordal. Following is an execution of the fabordón theme without any ornamentation followed by a version with Corrêa’s ornaments from the live performance:

Corrêa gives 4 ways of ornamentation in the 5th chapter4 of Facultad:

  • quiebro senzillo: (mordent) fingering 3-2-3 (RH); 2-3-2 (LH)

  • quiebro reiterado: fingering 4-3-2-3 (RH); 1-2-3-2 (LH)

  • redoble senzillo:

  • redoble reiterado:

Chapter 5 of Facultad organica (Alcalá,1626)


Corrêa recommends the quiebro on the 1st note when a voice enters (especially on the organ), between whole steps, on all semibreves and minims when the other voices are not too busy, on stepwise movements when the redoble does not work, and one must play the quiebro reiterado at the beginning of a large slow work. The redoble must be played on mi-fa, on the penultimate chord, at mi-fa cadences, on some whole-step movements, and on the mi at the beginning of a large work on the harpsichord.5 He also adds ideas of inequality and grouping of notes in the ‘Eleventh Point’ of the “ADVERTENCIAS”6:

[…] six or twelve notes per measure, and also of nine and of eighteen notes per measure, can be played in two different ways. The first, easier manner is to play them equally and plainly, that is, without pausing more on one than on another, and this ayre (style) is like major proportion, … The second manner is to play them somewhat unequally, and with that charm and graciousness (typical) of minor proportions, staying more on the first note and less on the second and third, and then stopping on the fourth and less on the fifth and sixth, and this style (though more difficult) is the most used by organists.[…] The second manner, which occurs when they are played unequally (pausing more on the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth, etc. and less on those in-between, which is as if playing one quarter-note and two eighth-notes, more or less), always has been notated with a three above, to denote the air [style] of minor proportion or delivery of such notes in sesquialtera [by] Cabezón and Manuel Rodríguez Pradillo and many others.7

Following is an execution of the 1st glosado without any rhythmic alterations followed by my interpretation with inequality as advised by Corrêa from the live performance:

Chapter 9

Tablature and Historically Informed Performance Practice

Performance (live) with Corrêa's ornaments

Performance as rhythmically notated

Performance (live) with inequality

Performance without ornaments

Please click to play the videos.

Please click to play the videos.